Penn St. board explains Paterno firing

Penn St. board explains Paterno firing

Published Jan. 12, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

Penn State University's board of trustees on Thursday moved to defend its decision to part ways with head football coach Joe Paterno amid the child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

The board's statement came a day after university president Rodney Erickson fielded difficult questions from alumni about the handling of the controversy at a town hall-style meeting in Pittsburgh.

According to the statement, after Paterno announced on Nov. 9 he would retire at the conclusion of the 2011 season, the board decided that "given the nature of the serious allegations ... and the extraordinary circumstances then facing the University, ... Paterno could not be expected to continue to effectively perform his duties and that it was in the best interests of the University to make an immediate change in his status."

"Therefore, the Board acted to remove Coach Paterno from his position as Head Football Coach effective as of that date," read the statement issued by board chairman Steve Garban and vice chairman John Surma.


The board said Paterno remains employed by the university as a tenured faculty member and that the details of his retirement are being worked out and will be made public when they are finalized.

Paterno's son, Scott, said Thursday in response to the trustees' statement that it's becoming apparent that his father's ouster as Penn State head coach by school trustees ''was not handled well.''

''It is helpful to have on the record the Board's position (about) my father's status with the University,'' Scott Paterno said in his own statement. ''As has become apparent, the termination on November 9, with no notice or hearing, was not handled well.

''Joe Paterno has reiterated from the beginning that the first priority in this crisis is to serve the best interests of the victims,'' Scott Paterno continued. ''He believes strongly that everyone involved is entitled to due process.''

Erickson listened patiently Wednesday night as many alumni expressed concern and even anger about how the university's handling of the scandal had tarnished the school's reputation, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Representatives for the Paterno family said they were surprised by the statement from trustees chair Steve Garban and vice chairman John Surma.

Many were upset by Paterno's firing shortly after charges were brought against Sandusky. The 67-year-old former defensive coordinator pleaded not guilty to the charges last month.

Paterno, a witness before a grand jury investigating Sandusky, has not been accused of wrongdoing and is not a target of the probe.

According to the grand jury report, Paterno was informed about one alleged 2002 incident of abuse involving Sandusky and a boy in the Penn State locker-room shower. Paterno has said he adhered to his legal obligation by reporting the alleged incident to administrators, but he later said that in hindsight he wished he had "done more."

According to Scott Paterno, his father sees a ''wholesale attack on the football program and Penn State's academic record, as has happened in some quarters,'' as unjustified.

''This is a crisis that deserves thoughtful and thorough review. In the course of that review and analysis, however, the legitimate achievements of this University and the many good people who worked so hard to build it into a world-class institution should not be disrespected,'' Scott Paterno said before concluding, ''My parents are unwavering in their loyalty and dedication to Penn State.''

Erickson, who had previously served as provost, was appointed president by the university's board of trustees after Graham Spanier resigned from the position in the wake of Sandusky's arrest in November.

Several alumni groups are seeking to shake up the board's membership and structure. One group, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, plans to endorse three candidates to seek three open alumni-elected seats on the board this spring.

Meanwhile, newly minted head coach Bill O'Brien has been finalizing his staff, which is tasked with steering one of college football's most storied programs through the school's most difficult period.

O'Brien named six coaches to his staff Thursday, including two holdovers from the previous organization. The new coach has yet to name a defensive coordinator, a position last held by Tom Bradley, who took over the team on an interim basis after Paterno's firing.

Bradley spent 33 years as an assistant under Paterno before assuming the iconic coach's duties for the final four games of the season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.